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A Word of Encouragement

Starting next month in June I hope to begin a short sermon series in the book of Haggai. Haggai is a book that I have never preached from before, and yet I think it would be totally appropriate to study this book. I think it’s appropriate at this time that I preach through this book simply because the theme and purpose it was written for were to call the people of Judah to complete the rebuilding of the temple around 520 BC. The book of Haggai consists of several messages directly from God to His people regarding their hesitancy in getting the temple rebuilt. I think it’s of great value to study today because we as a church are beginning the process of rebuilding our church after 15 months of devastation, that was brought upon us by covid 19. This prophecy is really about God’s priorities.

We read God’s first message to the nation of Judah starting in verse one, “In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the six-month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: this is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, the time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.’” Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Hag.1:1-4 NIV). When the Jews returned from Babylon in 538 B.C. to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, they were not able to finish their work as they were hindered by their enemies. Now in August of 520 B.C. Haggai delivers a message to encourage his people to rebuild the temple. The challenge that Haggai faced was that people had become quite content living in their own comfortable homes, while the temple lies in ruins. If you ever wonder if the materialistic lifestyle that we live with today is unique in human history, let me assure you it is not. It was very easy for the people of Judah to settle in their comfortable homes and ignore the fact that the temple lay in ruins. That is the challenge of the book of Habakkuk as God speaks into that cultural context about the priority of putting God’s house first. We will see as we blog through the book of Haggai that God wants to challenge us to have His priorities.

I believe it’s important for us as we restart the ministries at NDC that we do not allow the discouragement of the past year to turn into complacency and procrastination in seeking to restore what God is doing here in our church. I believe that God has set before us a rather remarkable opportunity to renew the work of our church ministry with a new heart for reaching people and for caring for that which God has placed in our stewardship. Much has been done in the last 15 months to improve our facilities for which I am truly grateful. But now it is time to restart some of the ministry functions that have been lost over the last 15 months. Personally, I am delighted to be able to once again be ministering by visiting people in the hospital. This past week I visited one of our elders who was hospitalized with complications pending a surgery that was supposed to have taken place last Wednesday. My three visits this last week were as many visits into hospitals as I had made over the last 15 months. It’s important for us to recognize that when we have God’s priorities God will bless the end result of our work. But we can very much labor in vain if we minister out of our own priorities and our own desires.

Just this past week several people have discussed with me why certain people have not returned to the church. While I don’t have an answer to that question, I’m sure some have legitimate medical concerns and safety issues and that’s why they are watching from home. I’m just as sure that others have found that it’s easier and more comfortable to watch the services from home. Please keep in mind what Haggai is saying to the people of Judah regarding their priorities. I’m sure God has a word for all of us in this short prophecy written over 2000 years ago. May our hearts be open to whatever God has to say to us.

All for God’s glory,

Pastor Rich Sivo

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